The Austin Chronicle

Digital Scroll: Is It Rolling, Bob?

Bob Johnston produced some of music's greatest albums

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, June 26, 2015, Music

Is It Rolling, Bob?

Bob Johnston's autobiography as told to Louis Black

Producer of Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited; Simon & Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence; Leonard Cohen's Songs of Love and Hate; Johnny Cash's live breakthroughs at Folsom and San Quentin prisons; and compiler of Willie Nelson's IRS Tapes – to name a few star-studded credits – Bob Johnston deserves a biography. Chronicle Editor Louis Black spent years interviewing Johnston, and reels in a whale of a tale now online only at Despite repetitions, misspellings, and Johnston's train of thought not always arriving at its destination, Is It Rolling, Bob? preserves an important piece of music history. Born in Hillsboro, Texas, the subject tried his hand at rockabilly in the late Fifties before ending up in NYC where he started producing for Kapp Records and eventually made his way into Columbia Records. Johnston claims he merely "turned the machines on" when Dylan recorded some of his most iconic songs, the book's title deriving from Nashville Skyline's "To Be Alone With You," wherein Dylan asks the producer, "Is it rolling, Bob?" Yet, from his early days at Kapp and working with Patti Page – plus the claim that he and his wife wrote more than 20 songs for Elvis Presley (with his spouse getting sole composer credit for "contractual reasons") – to Michael Martin Murphey's "Wildfire," it's clear Johnston was in the right place at the right time with revolutionary ideas.

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